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Israel Announces Major Settlement Expansion Amid Biden Visit

The Israeli government has unveiled plans for a new round of settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel says it will build over 1,600 new homes in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo. The announcement came just as Vice President Joe Biden is in Israel to promote US-backed peace talks. In a statement, Biden said he "condemned" the Israeli plan, adding, "The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel." Biden released the statement after attending a state dinner where he publicly praised Israeli officials. Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev defended the move on the grounds Israel doesn’t consider East Jerusalem to be occupied territory.

Mark Regev: "In order to get the peace process back on track, this Israeli government, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, has gone further than any previous Israeli government in placing restrictions on growth in the settlements. But we have to be clear, from the point of view of Israel, Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital and will remain as such."

Biden is visiting Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah today. Ahead of his visit, the Palestinian Authority official for Jerusalem, Adnan Al-Husseini, said Israel had announced the settlement construction to undermine peace talks.

Adnan Al-Husseini: "The Israeli government took the decision to destruct any attempt for this peace, and this letter should be taken by the international community and the United States that they are just wasting their time. There will be no hope, there will be no result, for these negotiations."

NY Activists Protest Israeli Military Chief

Meanwhile, here in New York, hundreds of people rallied outside a Manhattan hotel Tuesday to protest a fundraiser held by the group Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. The head of the Israeli military, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was a featured speaker. Israeli activist Matan Cohen of the group Anarchists Against the Wall called for ending US aid to Israel.

Matan Cohen: "We’re protesting here today at a fundraiser dinner for the Israeli army. We’re here to send a clear message to the Israeli government that its impunity has ended, that the world is watching, and that we’ll no longer stand idle as its policies of apartheid and occupation continue. We’re here to say clearly that the aid to Israel should be stopped and that the United States should no longer fund Israel’s crimes. Enough is enough."

Préval in US Ahead of Aid Request

Haitian President René Préval is in Washington for talks with the Obama administration on Haiti’s reconstruction following the January earthquake. The Haitian government is finalizing a request for its aid needs ahead of a United Nations donor conference later this month. On Tuesday, Préval said the capital Port-au-Prince would be rebuilt differently.

Haitian President René Préval: "This is an opportunity to not only rebuild Port-au-Prince, but, first and foremost, to invest and to rebuild in the provinces. And of course, the recovery of Haiti will take a long time. Everybody must be aware of that. To rebuild Port-au-Prince as it was before would be a major historical mistake. And that is the message that I’m trying to convey, not only to the Haitians, but also to my international partners."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said the US is working to assist in Haiti in rescheduling delayed parliamentary elections.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "I assured President Préval that the United States would work with the international community to hold elections as soon as appropriate. I want to assure you again that the United States and President Obama and our administration remain committed to you. We believe in Haiti’s promise, and we are committed to Haiti’s future."

EU: Climate Proposals Could Increase Emissions

The European Union is warning a series of loopholes in current global climate proposals could lead to an increase in emissions over the next decade. In a draft report, the EU says spare carbon emissions permits from the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as lax rules on emissions from agriculture and deforestation, could help negate proposed reductions. With those loopholes in place, the EU says emissions would in fact rise by 2.6 percent over 1990 levels. The EU also says rich countries’ current reduction pledges currently fall between 13 and 17.8 percent — well short of the 25 to 40 percent cuts urged by the UN’s scientific panel on climate change.

India Advances Historic Measure on Women Lawmakers

In India, lawmakers have approved a measure that would designate one-third of all legislative seats for women. Supporters of the bill call it a move to address decades of male dominance of India’s political affairs. The measure now faces a vote in India’s lower house of parliament, where it’s expected to be approved.

Ex-UK Intel Chief: US Misled Allies on Treatment of Prisoners

The former head of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency is accusing the US of misleading allies on the torture of foreign prisoners. On Tuesday, Eliza Manningham-Buller said the Bush administration deliberately hid details of its treatment of prisoners including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Manningham-Buller said, "The Americans were very keen that people like us did not discover what they were doing."

Thousands Protest Insurers in DC

In Washington, DC, thousands of people marched on Tuesday in a rally organized by the group Health Care for America Now. The protest converged on a downtown hotel playing host to a meeting of the insurance industry’s lobbyist front group, American Health Insurance Plans. Organizers delivered symbolic arrest warrants for top insurance executives.

Speaker: "I do solemnly affirm to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Among these domestic enemies, I count big insurance companies."

Utah Gov. Signs Anti-Abortion Measure

In Utah, Governor Gary Herbert has signed into law a new anti-abortion measure that could punish women for having a miscarriage. The Republican-backed bill would allow women to be charged with murder if they commit "an intentional or knowing act" that causes a miscarriage. The bill initially included language that would have also punished women for "reckless" acts. But despite the revision, critics still say the measure could target women for all kinds of actions, including staying with an abusive partner.

Study: Number of US Millionaires Increased 16% in 2009

A new study says the number of millionaires in the United States grew by 16 percent last year. The jump in wealthy households coincided with a rising unemployment rate and stagnant wages for most American workers. The research firm Spectrem Group says that if income inequality continues apace, the divide between rich and poor in the United States "will resemble that of Mexico by year 2043."

Bank of America to End Overdraft Fees on Debit Purchases

The banking giant Bank of America has announced it will end overdraft charges on debit card purchases. Customers with insufficient funds will now have their purchases declined instead of being hit with large fees. The decision comes amidst a federal push to regulate overdraft fees. The Federal Reserve has proposed to bar banks from charging overdraft fees without consumer consent. Banks collected at least $32 billion dollars in overdraft fees last year.

1st Gay Marriages Performed in DC

The first gay marriages have been performed in Washington, DC following the enactment of a law recognizing same-sex unions. On Wednesday, three gay couples were married amid heavy security organized to prevent disruptions by gay marriage opponents. The District of Columbia joins Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont as the only jurisdictions allowing gay marriage.

Veteran Activist Doris "Granny D" Haddock Dies at 100

And the longtime activist Doris "Granny D" Haddock has died. She was 100 years old. Haddock made headlines ten years ago after walking across the United States in a bid to support campaign finance reform. She was ninety years old at the time. Four years later, Granny D challenged Republican Senator Judd Gregg, capturing 34 percent of the vote.


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